County Council at-large candidate Brandy Brooks, following a roughly two-week pause in campaign activities after sexual harassment claims arose from a former staffer, has resumed appearances in events and candidate forums.
Though she has recently lost the endorsements of two local organizations, Brooks said she wanted to continue her campaign because of all the hard work that she and her staff have put in for over a year. But there’s another factor that could complicate her position: the county’s public campaign financing law.
According to county Department of Finance records, Brooks has received $172,624 from the county’s public election fund as of April 30. The only at-large candidate who raised more was incumbent Evan Glass, who received $231,097 in public funds through the same period.
The county’s public campaign financing law is available for all county executive and County Council candidates. In order for at-large candidates to qualify for matching funds, they must receive no donations of more than $250, and raise $20,000 from 250 donors.
County law states that a “participating candidate who withdraws from an election must repay to the Director [of Finance] all distributions from the Fund received during the election cycle plus interest computed from the date of the distribution(s).”
Brooks said the fact that she would have to repay the public campaign finance funding is not the only reason that she decided to stay in the race.
“It’s certainly one of a number of factors,” Brooks said. “We take our responsibility to the public election fund very seriously.”
She added that her commitment to issues including affordable housing, environmental justice and creating an equitable local economy are why she’s still running for an at-large seat.
“The biggest factor is the mission and vision, and what we’ve been working to pursue in this campaign,” Brooks said. “There are many, many folks who have supported that work over the course of this campaign, and we continue to honor and value the folks who have done that work.”
Glass and at-large Council Member Will Jawando — both running for re-election this year —
both said they would be open to changing the public campaign financing law regarding the return of funds that are disbursed. Jawando said in an interview that county officials should look at updating the law regarding whether candidates should have to repay the public funds they received if they withdraw from races.
Glass added that candidates need to be transparent in how they use public funds.
“Candidates need to maintain public trust if they’re using public financing,” Glass said in an interview.
The primary election is July 19. The general election is Nov. 8.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com